Welcome back. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the earthquake and the hurricanes.
Next Thursday, I'll be moderating a panel with Zoox's Bert Kaufman and robotics pioneer Helen Greiner as part of the Halcyon Dialogue series about robotics and AI. You can watch on the Axios science stream or on Facebook Live. And, check out Halcyon House on Sept. 29, since there will be robot demonstrations that are open to the public. Register for that here.
The gene-editing tool CRISPR is being used to change DNA across the spectrum of life. This week, it allowed scientists to determine the genetics underlying butterfly wing coloring and, for the first time, knock out a gene's function in a human embryo. Given the advances, we asked Jessica Berg, professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, what ethical questions should be considered.
Axios' Stef Kight writes: Google searches for mental health terms related to depression, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorder show a peak in the late winter and a dip during the summer, according to a recent analysis by Google News Lab and Gabriel Gianordoli. This is in line with a Google study in 2013, which also found that mental illness searches followed seasonal trends.
Yes, but: While the search trends seem to line up with seasonal depression, Allen Frances, a psychiatrist and professor emeritus at Duke University, told Axios that the study results "don't by themselves explain the phenomenon they're describing." He points out there could be several external factors that would contribute to the peaks and valleys of mental health related Google searches, including drug advertisements.
From Erin Ross: Jellyfish seem to drift aimlessly — and brainlessly — through the sea. But despite their relatively simple nervous system, they enter an inactive period each night that, Caltech scientists report in a new study, is akin to sleep. The found that when jellyfish don't catch enough Z's, they lag behind the next day — just like humans do.
Why it matters: It's (essentially) impossible to test if all animals sleep. But, if "sleep is conserved from jellyfish all the way to humans, which are almost the furthest evolutionary distance you can go in animals," it would suggest sleep has ancient origins, Claire Bedbrook, one of the authors of the study, told Axios. Not only does this mean sleep probably only evolved once long ago, it also "really highlights how important sleep is for animals," she adds.